Recently, my father and I had the privilege to visit his 95 year old aunt and her daughter – to sip a little espresso, chat about upcoming family events, and go over some old photos of family from the 40’s that needed a little clarification.
When I step into the house that my great aunt Maria has lived in for decades, I feel like I am stepping back in time, to one steeped in old world sensibilities. I would not be overstating my level of comfort in the conversation over coffee, looking at the photos of saints on her walls, and the calendar detailed in her native language.
The atmosphere makes me feel like a child again, or at least a teenager – longing for a time when all my role models were here, alive and well, to help and guide us to create our space here on earth.
The modern era can strip away a needed sense of simplicity, patience, and focus on the important. A trip to an older relative’s house – to Maria’s – has the ability to restore that sense of balance of what should be focused on.
Family, values, tradition – should I mention… food?
Distractions can be an issue anywhere. But they are ubiquitous in our hyper-connected society. I myself have been distracted repeatedly. Not just by the on-line world, but by the siren call of materialism, comfort, convenience and luxury.
The importance of keeping the traditions of the previous generations can be overshadowed by distractions. To keep them going, deliberate practice is needed – as needed as practice with an instrument like a piano, or a habit like your jump shot in basketball.
Without that practice, traditions can fade. They become as much a memory as the loved ones that came before you.
There are a variety of ways I practice keeping tradition, my favorite being the step by step process for the making of the Sunday Sauce.
Every time I do it, it takes me back in time to my grandmother’s house when I was young. From the initial fragrance of frying onions and garlic, the crushing of whole tomatoes, to adding the wine and spices – it’s all part of a ritual that makes me happy, and exposes my kids to how I grew up, at the same time.
It’s a symbolic gesture to my youth, and my heritage. And gives me the added bonus of cooking with my wife, hanging out in the kitchen, listening to music, drinking wine and having fun.
Aside from creating a great tasting sauce, practicing a traditional ritual like this allows me to take a swipe, or (better yet) throw a left hook – into the face of ultra convenient, drive thru, obsessed-with-fancy aspects of modern American living.
I like the idea of tradition – and the focus on food, family, friends, and the enjoyment of meaningful experiences that it brings.
I like going back. Seeing memories of Sunday dinners past. With all of the family, some still here, some long gone. Giving my kids just a glimpse of these very important times.
I’m not sure if they’ll ever experience Sunday as I did – but I’d like to think it’s part of my job to show them what it was like.
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